A detailed safety assessment of innovative Generation IV reactor designs with heavy-liquid metal coolants, such as lead and lead-bismuth eutectic (LBE), requires an evaluation of the maximum core temperature in several postulated scenarios.

Considering the complex geometry of fuel assemblies (FAs), and the low Prandtl number of the coolants, this flow scenario is challenging for the models used in numerical simulations, e.g. for relating the turbulent transport of momentum and heat. Thus, reliable experimental data are needed for validation.

In recent years, a series of comprehensive heat transfer tests in fuel pin bundle simulators was performed at ENEA (Italy) and KIT (Germany) in the framework of the European collaborative projects THINS and SEARCH. Both grid and wire spacer geometries are considered, in a wide range of operating conditions (temperature, flow velocity and power density) representative of the ALFRED and MYRRHA fuel assemblies, in natural and forced-convective flow regimes. Although different experimental approaches were followed by each group (e.g. thermocouple position and average data treatment), there is a relatively good agreement on results in the overlapping regions.

These experimental studies indicate that the mean Nusselt number is in well agreement with the predictions of empirical correlations developed for sodium systems. In particular, for wire-spaced FA, heat transfer results show values close to the Kazimi-Carelli correlation both for low and high flow rates at ENEA and KIT respectively. For grid-spaced FA, results are more in agreement with Ushakov correlation.

Furthermore, large temperature differences are measured by thermo-couples installed at selected rods and sub-channels. A discussion on the influences of the spacer design and bundle size is included. This wide comparison allows an overview of the research on the HLM cooled fuel assembly in Europe.

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